Weather challenges

The torrential rainfall midweek shows no signs of letting up, with a poor forecast for most of the week ahead. The recent brief reprieve and improved grazing conditions were short lived, with grass utilisation falling fast.

Achieving reasonable levels of utilisation will become challenging on marginal lands with heavier covers.

If offered large areas, sheep grazing such areas will graze off the most palatable grass, leaving lower-quality, possibly soiled grass behind.

Forcing lambs to graze such swards will hit performance hard, while forcing ewes to graze out similar swards in the lead up, during, or for the first month of gestation should be avoided.

There are two practices that can be adopted to try and lift utilisation, the first of which is to reduce the size of the grazing area using temporary fencing and graze over 24 to 36 hours.

In such a scenario, ewes will be forced to graze lower-quality material for a shorter period and performance will not be compromised.

This is a labour heavy option, and a more attractive alternative for many is to reduce the size of the grazing areas somewhat, allow sheep to graze off the most palatable grass and return in mid-pregnancy when swards have freshened up and ewes only require maintenance feeding.

Table 1 summarises Teagasc recommendations detailing the number of days grazing available at different sward heights. It is based on allocating 1.7kg grass dry matter per head daily.

This is based on a grass utilisation figure of 75% and 1.3kg dry matter (DM) being consumed.

A grazing ewe at present in the midst of the breeding season will have an intake requirement ranging from 1.2kg DM to 1.5kg DM (influenced by ewe liveweight) and it is important to satisfy this during breeding and in early gestation. This can be dropped back to 1kg DM to 1.2kg DM in mid-pregnancy.

TASAH consultation

The mention of the Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH) in last week’s column has raised a few follow-on queries.

If your vet is not listed on the Animal Health Ireland (AHI) website and is not participating, then you can request to have another vet complete the process.

The nominated vet is responsible for taking and submitting faecal egg counts to the laboratory. Farmers who availed of the service in 2022 can apply again in 2023.

See for more or contact the AHI office on 071 9671928.

SIS hill ram multibreed sale

Ballybofey and Stranorlar Mart in association with Sheep Ireland and hill breed societies in Donegal are holding a multibreed ram sale on Friday 27 October at 7pm.

The sale will offer rams eligible for the Sheep Improvement Scheme across a number of breeds including Blackface Mountain, Cheviot and Bluefaced Leicester.

A sale catalogue will be available on the Sheep Ireland website, in the coming days.